Tips for Taking a Productive Gap Year

After graduating from university with an undergraduate degree, it is common for students to be unsure of what step they should take next. Taking a gap year has become an increasingly popular option for those finding they need some space between graduation and the next stage of their life. Below are several ideas for making the most out of a gap year and how you can market it to future employers or graduate admissions councils. 

1. Volunteer or find part-time/temporary work 

Some students have aspirations to complete a graduate degree but are unsure what they would like to specialize in. Others want to explore their options before they commit to a full-time job. In either case, finding a cause or organization to volunteer for can be an excellent way to discover what you are truly passionate about. Likewise, taking on a part-time job or temporary work can help you find a career you are well-suited for and be a source of income. Both volunteering and part-time work can be used later on to boost your resume. Additionally, students can develop skills such as maintaining a work-life balance and creating and sticking to a budget.

2. Pick up a new hobby or hone a certain skill 

Have you always wanted to play the guitar or take up running? Now is your chance to try out the different activities you’ve always wanted to but were too busy with school and other commitments to do! In particular, skills such as picking up a second or third language can be especially valuable to future employers. Even if your newfound passion becomes nothing more than a hobby, it can foster curiosity and creativity which are important values to have in any career or graduate school. 

3. Take advantage of opportunities to travel 

This tip can go hand-in-hand with learning a new language as mentioned above in no. 2. You have a unique opportunity to travel when you are fresh out of college, as you will probably not already have a full-time career or other responsibilities keeping you at home. Your gap year is an excellent time to cross some destinations off your bucket list! With opportunities for volunteer work such as teaching English abroad and other programs, travel can be made affordable on a student budget. It not only teaches you how to balance your finances and stay organized but can open your mind to other ideas and cultures. When you travel, you often have to place yourself out of your comfort zone and adapt to changing situations, which can strengthen your sense of independence and flexibility when faced with adversity. Employers and graduate schools seek out people who can rise up to different challenges and have a good awareness of our increasingly globalized world. 

4. Plan ahead and apply for future jobs or graduate school

One of the most important things you can do to have a productive gap year is to plan ahead. Having a general idea of what you hope to accomplish from your time off is essential to your success. Do your research and find out about the opportunities that are available to you — don’t be afraid to reach out to others to ask questions and get your name out there! Making connections can open up doors for you down the road. While you are achieving other goals during your gap year, it is also a good idea to apply to jobs you hope to work at or graduate schools you hope to attend in the future. These are processes which often take some time, so getting a head start on them is always a wise choice. 

5. Allow yourself time to relax 

Finally, while you don’t want to spend your entire gap year doing nothing, so make sure to give yourself a mental break! After all, you have spent a lot of time studying and working hard to complete your undergraduate degree, so you deserve it! Take a vacation, catch up with friends or spend some quality time with your family. Allow your mind and body enough time to recuperate, and then you can return to accomplishing your goals well-rested and with a fresher perspective on things.

Written by: Kelly Waters

4/9/2021

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